SEATTLE — Today’s signing day includes enough unknowns that it’s hard to say exactly what Washington’s football recruiting class will look like.
The jury already is in, though, on one thing — the controversial hiring of assistant coach Tosh Lupoi away from California last year has had its intended effect.
Recruiting is more complicated than simply crediting one assistant for the players signed at his position. Still, recruiting analysts look at the haul of defensive linemen that UW will sign Wednesday and can’t ignore the impact of Lupoi, the Huskies’ defensive-line coach.
Lupoi was hired from Cal in January 2012, lured by a three-year guaranteed contract for $350,000 annually that was based in part on his reputation for being one of the most effective recruiters in the conference. And through year one of the deal, the consensus is Lupoi has proved worth it.
“With the makings of that great defensive line that Washington has coming in, you have to put another feather in his cap,” said Rick Neuheisel, the former Washington, UCLA and Colorado coach who works for the Pac-12 Networks and will be part of its signing-day coverage.
Added Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com: “That defensive line class is really impressive. ... He (Lupoi) made his reputation as a recruiter at Cal, and it’s been further enhanced with his efforts at Washington.”
Those efforts might be held in even better light depending on what happens with key recruits Wednesday.
Perhaps the most touted of the six defensive linemen to commit to UW is end Daeshon Hall of Lancaster, Texas, who played at Garfield High School in Seattle as a freshman and sophomore. He committed to Washington last summer but also is considering Texas Christian and Texas A&M. He will make a final decision Wednesday.
“They’ve got to hold on to Daeshon Hall,” Farrell said. “That’s a kid they’ve loved from Day 1. If they hold on to him, it’s a terrific class.”
Washington also still is in the conversation with Eddie Vanderdoes of Auburn, Calif., who is generally considered the top defensive tackle on the West Coast. He committed to USC early, then decided to look around and visited UW in December. He is expected, though, to sign with USC or UCLA.
Assuming Washington keeps Hall, Washington’s class of defensive linemen could be rated as the best in the Pac-12 even without Vanderdoes.
Recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman of Scout.com/FoxSports.com said USC’s group of defensive linemen might be the only one better, depending how the Trojans do with players also making last-minute decisions.
Aside from Hall, the other gems of the defensive line class are tackle Elijah Qualls of Petaluma, Calif., and ends Joe Mathis of Upland, Calif., and Marcus Farria of Peoria, Ariz. All are four-star recruits according to Scout.com. Mathis and Qualls each had listed offers from USC, while Mathis also had offers from Alabama and Notre Dame. Qualls counted Michigan and Nebraska among his other suitors.
Analysts say the ability to communicate and relate to players that marked Lupoi’s Cal recruiting success also has held true at UW. The fact he is just 31 years old helps.
“We really don’t even talk about football,” said Qualls. “He wants to know how my family is doing, stuff like that. He really cares for his players.”
Washington is expected to sign two in-state defensive linemen, Jaimie Bryant of Tumwater and Andrew Basham of Lynnwood.
It is the foursome of Hall, Qualls, Mathis and Farria, though, that stands out.
“There’s a lot of power here and a lot of athleticism,” said Farrell. “He (Hall) is still raw. He’s a guy I think could be a pro someday if he continues to develop. Farria is a very strong kid who has got a lot of room to fill out. A strong, physical kid. And Mathis is a guy who could play standing up or with his hand down on the ground, and will probably do a little of both.
“He (Qualls) is a little undersized for a defensive tackle, but he’s a superior athlete and moves so well to the football. He is a hard guy to get your hands on and block. And obviously also playing running back, you can tell he is a big, jumbo athlete.”
All could be asked to immediately help bolster a defense that improved markedly last season under UW’s first-year coordinator, Justin Wilcox, but also still has a ways to go.
Qualls, who is expected to sign his letter of intent early Wednesday morning, said he has done what he can to help convince some of the other linemen to join him at UW, and likes what he sees.
“There is no doubt in my mind we are going to be able to do big things,” he said.